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[U] Commonwealth v. Perez-Baez

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 28, 2014



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence February 20, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-38-CR-0000447-2012




Appellant, Juan Melvin Perez-Baez, appeals from the February 20, 2013 judgment of sentence of five to 23 months' imprisonment imposed after a jury found him guilty of one count of simple assault.[1] After careful review, we affirm the judgment of sentence.

The trial court summarized the relevant facts and procedural history of this case as follows.

On or about February 25, 2012, [Appellant's then-girlfriend, ] Jody Hunsicker-Diaz (hereinafter[, the victim]) walked herself to the Good Samaritan Hospital following a domestic violence incident involving [Appellant]. [Appellant] was charged with one (1) count of Simple Assault. A jury trial was held on January 8, 2013, where [Appellant] was found guilty. On February 20, 2013, [Appellant] was sentenced to a period of incarceration at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility, the minimum of which was five (5) months and the maximum was twenty-three (23) months. On February 28, 2013, [Appellant] filed a [timely] post-sentence motion alleging the Commonwealth's evidence was insufficient to support is conviction.

Trial Court Opinion, 6/28/13, at 2-3 (footnotes in original). On June 28, 2013, the trial court entered an order denying Appellant's post-sentence motion. This timely appeal followed on July 12, 2013.[2]

On appeal, Appellant raises the following issue for our review.

A. Whether Appellant should be acquitted because there was not sufficient evidence presented at trial to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the crime of [s]imple [a]ssault?

Appellant's Brief at 4.

"The standard we apply in reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence is whether viewing all the evidence admitted at trial in the light most favorable to the verdict winner, there is sufficient evidence to enable the fact-finder to find every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Commonwealth v. O'Brien, 939 A.2d 912, 913 (Pa. Super. 2007) (citation omitted). "Any doubts concerning an appellant's guilt [are] to be resolved by the trier of fact unless the evidence was so weak and inconclusive that no probability of fact could be drawn therefrom." Commonwealth v. West, 937 A.2d 516, 523 (Pa. Super. 2007), appeal denied, 947 A.2d 737 (Pa. 2008). Moreover, "[t]he Commonwealth may sustain its burden of proving every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt by means of wholly circumstantial evidence." Commonwealth v. Perez, 931 A.2d 703, 707 (Pa. Super. 2007) (citations omitted).

The crime of simple assault is codified in the Pennsylvania Crimes Code and provides, in pertinent part, as follows.

§ 2701. Simple assault
(a) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of assault if he:
(1) attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another[.] 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2701(a)(1).
Furthermore, it is axiomatic that simple assault does not require a victim to suffer actual bodily injury. The attempt to inflict bodily injury may be sufficient. This intent may be inferred from the circumstances surrounding the incident if a specific intent to cause bodily injury may reasonably be inferred therefrom.

Commonwealth v. Polston, 616 A.2d 669, 679 (Pa. Super. 1992) (internal citations omitted), appeal denied, 626 A.2d 1157 (Pa. 1993).

Herein, Appellant contends that "the Commonwealth failed to present sufficient evidence that [he] intentionally, knowingly or recklessly injured [the victim, ]" because "[t]he only evidence presented at trial was the testimony of the victim." Appellant's Brief at 8. Appellant avers that without the "hospital record or photographs to support [the victim's] account of the incident[, ]" his conviction for simple assault cannot stand. Id. Upon review of the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the verdict winner, we disagree with Appellant's contentions.

The evidence presented at trial established that Appellant assaulted the victim, his then-girlfriend, for approximately 20 to 30 minutes on the evening in question, pushing her to the floor, punching her in the head and torso, pulling her hair, and biting her on the back. N.T., 1/8/13, at 7-8. The record further reveals that the victim sustained bodily injury as a result of this incident. Bodily injury for the purposes of simple assault is defined as an "[i]mpairment of physical condition or substantial pain." 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2703. Instantly, the victim testified that she sustained bruises and lumps to her head, pain in her back, neck and elbow, a "pounding" headache, blurry vision, and a bite mark on her shoulder blade that caused her to bleed. Id. at 8, 10. As a result of these injuries, the victim visited Good Samaritan Hospital the following day and was prescribed antibiotics for the bite mark and medication for the pain. Id. at 10-11. Additionally, the victim testified that it took approximately one week for her injuries to heal and that at the time of Appellant's trial, she still had soreness and scarring. Id. Our review further reveals that Appellant has failed to cite any authority for his claim that the Commonwealth is required to present hospital records or photographic evidence to sustain a conviction for simple assault. This Court will not consider issues where Appellant fails to cite to any legal authority to support his claim. See Commonwealth v. McLaurin, 45 A.3d 1131, 1139 (Pa. Super. 2012), appeal denied, 65 A.3d 413 (Pa. 2013). Rather, the jury in the case sub judice was free to infer Appellant's intent to cause bodily injury based on the victim's testimony and the circumstances surrounding the events of that evening. See Polston, supra.

Based on the totality of the circumstances, we conclude that there was sufficient evidence to sustain Appellant's conviction for simple assault. Accordingly, we affirm the February 20, 2013 judgment of sentence.

Judgment of sentence affirmed.

Judgment Entered.

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